Blaney finds window to win Penske-dominated All-Star Race
Brenden Martin recaps the 2022 NASCAR All-Star Race at Texas Motor Speedway where several favorites were taken out in one scary crash and Ryan Blaney nearly threw $1 million out his window.
Team Penske No. 12 Ryan Blaney’s window of opportunity was nearly shut right in front of his face on the final lap of the 2022 NASCAR All-Star Race at Texas Motor Speedway. The young driver was mere feet away from taking the checkered flag before a last-second caution was caused by JTG Daugherty Racing and All-Star Open Stage 1 winner Ricky Stenhouse Jr, who slammed the wall.
After Blaney initially crossed the finish line, everyone thought the race was over and that the caution came after he crossed the line. But looking at the replay, the yellow caution lights began flashing with the checkered flag still in his sights.
Bob Pockrass @bobpockrassBlaney couldn’t believe it when first told.
“Are you serious, it’s not over?” Blaney said.
The cruel part of him finding out he had to race for the win again was that he had already put his window net down, which is not designed to be put up from the inside.
As the field ran the caution laps going into overtime, everyone was fixated on if Blaney would be able to get the window net back up, which is required to keep racing. Eventually, he got the net back up, albeit in not the most pretty fashion.
The checkered flag didn’t lie when it was all said and done as Blaney held off an oncoming Joe Gibbs Racing No. 11 Denny Hamlin to win it for real, securing the coveted $1 million awarded to the winner.
“It was about to be real bad for us,” Blaney said to Fox Sports’ Jaime Little. I thought the race was over. Everyone through the race was over. I do want to thank NASCAR for letting me fix it and not make us come down pit road.”
Hamlin tweeted out that he was fine with Blaney being the winner, but wasn’t a fan of how NASCAR handled the end of the race.
Blaney put the cherry on top of a dominant day for Team Penske. Starting from the front row, Blaney came one spot shy of winning Stage 1, just behind pole-sitter Joe Gibbs Racing No. 18 Kyle Busch who clinched the pole for the final stage with the Stage 1 win. All Busch had to do was finish in both Stages 2 and 3 to do so.
Bob Pockrass @bobpockrassKyBusch wins opening stage. KyBusch Blaney Larson Byron KuBusch Chastain Truex Logano Bell Elliott.
However, Busch ended up not having a car to get him to the final stage not long after. With three laps left in Stage 2, Busch had his right-rear tire go down from the lead. Cars rushed right by Busch as he brought his Toyota Camry to the bottom of the track, but Trackhouse Racing No. 1 Ross Chastain used the bottom lane to try and get around Busch, a split decision that ended up being the wrong decision. Chastain plowed into the left side of Busch’s car and effectively used it as a ramp to go airborne. Luckily for Chastain, he landed on his tires but then took out Hendrick Motorsports No. 9 Chase Elliott before hitting the wall, causing terminal damage to all three cars.
“I saw he had an issue off of [turn] four and I had a long time to watch him and I thought he’ll stay up,” Chastain said to Fox Sports’ Bob Pockrass. “I just guessed left and then I froze in the moment.”
In one fell swoop, four of the five previous All-Star race winners were taken out, leaving the field wide-open for a winner. This was where Team Penske came in to steal the show. Team Penske No. 2 Austin Cindric took the lead after the incident which brought the red flag out. Stage 2 went into overtime and Cindric held off the eventual winner Blaney to secure pole for the final stage.
Bob Pockrass @bobpockrassCindric wins second stage.
In between stages 2 and 3 was the pit stop challenge which had all cars come down to pit road for a four-tire stop. The team with the fastest stop was awarded $100k and got to start behind the stage winners for the final stage.
Team Penske No. 22 Joey Logano and his crew win the challenge.
“I’m just proud of the effort,” No. 22 team crew chief Paul Wolfe said to Little. “We haven’t been where we wanted to be all year. We made some changes and the guys have stepped up. Obviously Joey is one of the best on pit road so we put together the whole package.”
Blaney took home Stage 3 to round out the Team Penske sweep of the top three starting spots for the final stage and nobody looked able to catch them from this point.
While the first three stages were 25 lap runs, the final stage was 50 laps with a competition caution set for halfway in the stage. That caution was offset as PettyGMS Racing No. 43 Erik Jones, who was the fan-voted driver to get into the race, spun and hit Turn 4 to end his day.
Much like last week at Kansas Speedway, tire failures were common with the first one coming via Hendrick Motorsports No. 5 Kyle Larson, who is a two-time All-Star Race winner, including last year.
With 21 laps to go at the restart, teams needed to decide if it was worth getting new tires. Drivers near the front of the field elected to stay out citing that it was impossible to pass cars and make up the track position that would be lost. Drivers near the middle of the field took two tires hoping to make up some ground that way.
Hamlin took two tires which allowed him to get around two of the Penske cars and a few others to get to second place but was still over two seconds behind Blaney with 13 laps to go. Blaney was pulling away from Hamlin even on older tires before nearly winning the race before Stenhouse Jr.’s wreck caused the third overtime.
Blaney’s best All-Star Race coming into this season was fifth in last year’s race.
The 2022 NASCAR All-Star Race saw many twists and turns that ultimately saw Blaney, who nearly tossed $1 million out his open window, take home the big check. While not a points race that will count as an official win for Blaney, the No. 12 team can use this race as momentum heading into the second half of the regular season where Blaney’s performance picked up last year.
The second half of the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series regular season will begin with the longest race of them all, the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Sunday, May 29 with the green flag set to drop at 6 p.m. ET. on FOX. The race can also be listened to on Performance Racing Network and SiriusXM.
All-Star Open Results:
All-Star Race Results: